Cash-strapped hospital hires expensive consultants, angers staff

As hospitals continue to struggle financially, some are turning to private consulting firms for advice. Yet, Chicago's Cook County Health and Hospitals System's decision to hire consultants from the Sibery Group (for temporary executive talent) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (to find cost savings) was not welcomed by doctors, nurses, and other staff members, reports the New York Times.

Like some other hospital employees in similar situations around the country, the workers are concerned the consultants are more focused on the health system's bottom line than its duty to provide quality care to some of the region's neediest patients.

Cook County hired consultants because of an expected $96 million budget shortfall in 2011, as well as uncertainty surrounding the effects of health reform, notes the article.

The consultants have helped guide efforts to shut down Oak Forest Hospital, reduce inpatient services at Provident Hospital, and lay off 1,350 employees.

Doctors, nurses, and union leaders claim that the consultants' calculations triggering those cuts were unsound. According to Cook County workers, the consultants' recommendations have not only compromised patient care at the financially stressed health system but have also deflated employee morale.

"They're cutting care, but they have a few million to hire more experts to tell us how inefficient we are," said Dr. Richard David, codirector of neonatal intensive care at Stroger Hospital.

For more:
- read the NYT article